Botanique, Brussels, Belgium, October 7, 2020
Lucrecia Dalt appeared as part of the Botanique venue’s annual sprawl-festival, Le Nuits, which had been postponed from the turning of April and May. Some gigs happened on an outdoor stage, set up in the Brussels venue’s surrounding gardens, but the more esoteric acts played in the Orangerie, which is Botanique’s larger room, even though it’s not particularly voluminous compared to many venues. The smaller Rotonde space was not found to be suitable for virus-era shows.
Dalt fell into the “esoteric” category, with her solo electronics investigations and her concentrated inwardness. Although international acts are much fewer than usual in Brussels, Dalt arrived from her Berlin home, which is far, far away from her Colombian birthplace. Almost suddenly, her media presence has magnified, as the new No era sólida album (her seventh) is born, spreading outward from heavy radio rotation. Dalt is a radio producer herself, so her recent hour-long mix for the BBC 6 Music station’s Freak Zone was expertly crafted, as well as including a captivating musical selection, and even a clutch of her own immediately recognizable pieces.
Dalt clip-clopped onstage in 1970s-style stack heels and flowing cobalt silks, sitting at her broad tabletop of gear, lights characteristically low and subtle, aside from a few periods where a sun-bright, single burst-beam directly behind her transformed Dalt’s head into an eclipse event. She’s created a mysterious collection of songs, with a tiered succession of variegated textures, tones, and characters, arranged as if they were by a virtual band, but not utilizing any of the old familiar instruments, or indeed making any attempt to replicate or imitate their expected roles. Aside, that is, from a faintly repeated cluster that eventually appears, and then refuses to die, periodically issuing its charmingly hook-line pierce, almost sounding like it was bred from a piano.
Dalt also sings and narrates, which is why we’re allowed to call these works songs, but she disperses her phrases, lovingly tearing them into time-altered clouds of sheafed-smoke development. She processes heavily to achieve a ghost-form result. The accumulation could be sinister in this darkened chamber, but Dalt instead makes her tunes (and they are indeed quite catchy) sound positive, organic, and helpfully growing into something healthy. Even though her spread is allowed ample drifting-space, she uncannily prompts something of a head-nodding effect, almost an implied funk groove, although the listener is doubtless inscribing this themselves, between the floating lines.
Dalt began with a club-foot pulse, covered in Jon Hassell’s jug-percussion jungle drip, with volume swoops accompanying this train ride through the rainforest. Her Doppler vocals were set against a bass-y thrum, as if creating a backwards-speaking language, in this subliminal field of force. Dalt issued a moody extrusion of crawl, like a strain-stretched concertina or a pulled snake. Feedback blended with heavy-breathing, Blixa Bargeld-like mutterings, over twinkling-glimmer oscillations that were reminiscent of early Residents(ial) ditties. She also unspooled a Can lope, with Carl Stone-esque repeated vocals, heavily altered again, boasting multiple levels of sinister catchiness.
Despite your scribe mentioning these pre-existing artistes, it must be pointed out that they only inform a small portion of Dalt’s end-sound, and are used simply as a guide. The live experience of Dalt is highly recommended, and ultimately surpasses the power of her recordings (some of them), it being a major achievement to perform in near darkness, with zero flashy moves, and not much actual visible activity, yet to imbue a set with a palpable sense of tension and groove, in between its mood-altering stellar-undergrowth spaces.
Deejay Unqanny wafts across the landscape of drone, and the drone of landscape: the seas, the mountains, the plains and the planes, remembering the ambience of Harold Budd…